In May 2020, over 800 commuters from 49 employers from across England provided feedback on how they expected their travel behaviours to change because of the Covid-19 pandemic. The results reflect dramatic changes expected in use of public transport, cycling, walking and home working.
Commuters were asked about their preferred transport choice before the pandemic and once the Covid-19 restrictions were lifted. First choices for commuting changed as follows:
- Bus fell by 36% (from 222 to 143 respondents)
- Train fell by 45% (85 to 47)
- Cycling increased by 77% (44 to 78)
- Walking/running increased by 37% (38 to 52)
- Car driving alone fell by 4% (306 to 295)
In addition, working from home will be the norm for 7% of current commuters.
The same commuters were also asked whether they expected their overall levels of travel to change once the Covid-19 restrictions are lifted:
- 47% expected to travel less often, with 3% travelling more often
- 26% expected to drive less by car, with 14% driving by car more often
The same respondents were also asked about home working:
- 82% were working from home during the May 2020 restrictions
- Of those working from home, 13% believed that they were more effective in their role, compared to 32% stating they were less effective in their role. 55% stated their effectiveness was unchanged
- 18% of the respondents were unable to work from home
- More home working was attractive to many of the respondents in the future because of the reduced commute and the positive impact on health, well-being and family life
- There were a small number of commuters that could work from home in the future but would prefer to commute to a workplace
829 commuters across England were surveyed by sustainable transport consultancy, Go Travel Solutions. Most of these responses came from members of the SmartGo schemes in Leicester, Milton Keynes and Stevenage. SmartGo is a scheme for employers that promotes sustainable travel, launched in 2010 and co-ordinated by Go Travel Solutions. Many members of the SmartGo scheme are non-car users, with some of them previously being car drivers.
Robin Pointon, Managing Director of Go Travel Solutions said: “The Covid-19 pandemic is impacting on every part of life in the UK. Given the levels of uncertainty, we need to exercise caution in believing perceptions of the future will become the reality. However, what the research from these 800 commuters reflects is that Covid-19 will make an unprecedented impact on workplace travel. This is not just a change on the here and now but in the months and potentially years to come.
“Out of this crisis there can come some positives for both employers and their staff. By prioritising sustainability, there is an opportunity for employers to generate more effective workplaces and better engaged teams. Prioritising remote working, cycling and walking can bring benefits not only for individuals but for whole organisations. It offers opportunities to have more effective teams through a proactive approach to staff health and well-being; for some businesses it will provide scope to reduce expensive office costs. It is important that the government at all levels and enterprises like our own provide the necessary support to harness these benefits for employers.”